The Devils were unequivocal in saying they had to win Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Mission accomplished.
New Jersey evened the series at 2-2 by routing the Florida Panthers, 4-0, Thursday night at the Prudential Center.
Game 5 is Saturday night at the BankAtlantic Center.
“We never talked about [falling behind 3-1],” Travis Zajac said. “We knew if we played the right way, things would take care of themselves.
“You always have that [positive] attitude in the playoffs,” David Clarkson said. “You always believe you’re going to win.”
The Devils game plan was simple — hit anything in a white sweater and eliminate penalties. The Eastern Conference’s No. 6 seed had a two-to-one margin in hits, 27-13, while limiting the Panthers to 5:40 of man-advantage time.
“You do that every night,” Clarkson said of the Devils’ physical play. “When we’re playing our game, we’re chipping pucks and we’re getting in [deep] and winning battles. Penalty kill was great.”
Zach Parise’s power play goal at 6:08 of the second period was the game-winner. Parise shoved Marek Zidlicky’s shot, which had ricocheted off teammate Travis Zajac’s stick, past Florida goaltender Scott Clemmensen. The goal was the second in as many games for Parise. It also ended Clemmensen’s shutout streak at 79:52 dating back to Game 3.
Martin Brodeur started in goal for the Devils as he and DeBoer said he would after the future Hall of Famer was pulled in the second period of the Game 3 loss. Brodeur turned away 24 mostly harmless shots to record his 24th playoff shutout and his 101st playoff win. Brodeur passed Patrick Roy for the most shutouts in playoff history and trails the legendary Canadiens and Avalanche goaltender by 50 (151-101) for most wins in playoff history.
“Played a lot of games,” Brodeur
said about his latest NHL record. “I’ve been fortunate to play on great teams
[where players] sacrificed themselves for shutouts.”
Brodeur also was credited with a secondary assist on Steve Bernier’s goal 2:02 into the third that ended any pretense of drama. Bernier, whose incidental contact with Clemmensen eliminated a Zidlicky goal in Game 3, lasered a shot from the right faceoff circle over Clemmensen’s glove.
Zajac increased the lead to 3-0 just 1:33 after Bernier’s goal. Zajac, who missed most of the season recuperating from off-season Achilles surgery, one-timed a David Clarkson feed past Clemmensen.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored his second goal of the series with a wrist shot at 8:35 to end the scoring.
The win guarantees that the Rock will host at least one more playoff
game on Tuesday night for Game 6. It also eliminated the prospect of having
to answer uncomfortable questions about franchise history.
The Devils have only won one of the nine series in which they trailed
3-1. The lone win was the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, best
remembered for Scott Stevens’s center ice hit on Eric Lindros in Game 7.
won its lone series in which it had a 3-1 advantage, having eliminated
the Bruins in five games of the 1996 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman for news throughout the postseason.